Use of the Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test in community adult patients with mild traumatic brain injury


Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center


Background:The Buffalo Concussion Treadmill Test (BCTT) is used to establish exercise tolerance for rehabilitation and identify injury subtypes for youth athletes after mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Its utility in adult community members is unknown.

Objective:Primary: To describe how adults with and without mTBI tolerate the BCTT. Secondary: To explore relationships between baseline factors, mTBI-related symptoms, and BCTT duration.

Design:Prospective, observational, longitudinal.

Setting:Academic medical center.

Participants:Thirty-seven adults treated in a level 1 trauma center emergency department with mTBI; 24 uninjured controls (UC).


Main measures:Participants completed two visits 3 weeks apart (1 week and 1 month after mTBI) including a 15-minute BCTT, the Rivermead Post Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire (RPQ), and preinjury International Physical Activity Questionnaire. Analyses characterized BCTT response and associations between baseline factors, RPQ scores, and BCTT duration.

Results:Persons with mTBI discontinued earlier than UC at 1-week postinjury using standard discontinuation criteria for exercise intolerance. The percentage of mTBI participants with signs of possible mTBI-related intolerance was 55.6% at 1 week (36.1% for mTBI-related symptom exacerbation, 19.4% for exertion/fatigue before reaching 85% of one's age-predicted maximum heart rate [HR]) and 48.0% at 1 month (40.0% mTBI-related symptom exacerbation, 8.0% exertion without reaching the target HR). Thirty percent of UCs completed the BCTT at both assessments. UCs met discontinuation criteria for increased nonspecific symptoms (eg, pain/general discomfort and increased Visual Analog Scale ratings; 39-61%) and physical exertion (9-26%). Shorter duration was associated with higher body mass index (r = -0.42 - -0.45), shorter height (r = 0.22-0.29), female gender (r = -0.26 - -0.27), and greater RPQ symptoms (r = -0.28 - -0.47).

Conclusion:The BCTT exacerbates mTBI-related symptoms in adult community members. Participant characteristics and noninjury factors influence performance. The findings imply the BCTT could be useful in clinical assessments of adults with mTBI. Interpretation should account for the unique characteristics of nonathletes.

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